xmas round pic

Ambiance d'un noël français

Christmas ambience in France....It's very different from here in Australia...instead of hot summer days, it's winter. Instead of t-shirts and shorts, it's heavy coats, scarves and gloves. Instead of a swim at the beach or in the pool, it's stay inside and keep warm.

In France, the grey December days of winter become magically transformed by a riot of colour as Christmas approaches... .....It's houses with roofs covered in snow ...perhaps snowmen in the yards.... it's roads and shops decorated with bright colours and sparkling lights....it's the hot chestnut seller in the streets....it's the inside of houses decorated with bright colours, holly, ivy, Christmas trees, garlands, candles... it's a nice fire in the hearth, lots of gaily coloured presents under the tree, and a table laden with lots of lovely things to eat...!

The towns in France burst into colour with lights and Christmas trees in the last few weeks before Christmas. On the corner of the streets, the Christmas trees arrive. In the square, in front of the Town Hall Hotel de Ville or Mairie), there is usually a giant tree, covered in lights and decorated with baubles. These are real trees, not the plastic ones that we frequently see in Australia.

Ambiance noël by a café

A café owner in a little town in the Auvergne has made the entry very attractive for customers, with garlands, a ladder ready for Santa and the tree.

Schools are decorated for Christmas too, and have special Christmas events for their students. The Christmas school holiday starts only a few days before Christmas, and lasts only two weeks, compared with our long summer holidays here in Australia.

Ambiance noël in a little village The owner of this shop has used the down pipe from the gutter, and the street light, to help Santa on his way. The windows and inside the shop are also decorated.

In each town, everyone contributes to the decorations in the streets to provide a festive atmosphere. There are decorations in the streets - stars, snow flakes, candles, crowns, Christmas symbols and messages, multicoloured lights...By day, you don't see a lot, but when it's twilight, the streets and town light up and come to life. All of a sudden, the town changes ..hundreds of lights envelop its streets. Even the bare branches of the trees are decorated with lights of all sorts of colours!

Street decorations in Vichy, in central France. Ambiance noël in Vichy

The shop windows are transformed. Each shop presents a Christmas theme featuring its products and Christmas decorations. Little shops decorate their windows (vitrines) in a simple way. Sometimes towns and villages hold competitions to choose the best decorated shop window.

Christmas windows in a little town

There are scenes in snowy forests, with Bambi and his friends; frozen lakes with ice skaters; snowy mountains with skiers; the Three Kings travelling to Bethlehem; the crib with Baby Jesus; or scenes from traditional fairy tales.

Christmas market in Alsace The shops that sell decorations are always full of colour.

Even the owners of houses do their "bit" towards the Christmas decorations. For example, French people have a tradition of window boxes, full of brightly coloured flowers and geraniums which trails from one window to another and from floor to floor during the summer months. At Christmas, the flowers are replaced with branches, and coloured lights, baubles, garlands and other decorations.

Lights on bridges in Toulouse If the town has a river running through, then the bridges are illuminated too, like this one in Toulouse.

And what about Paris? The city is even more beautiful during the Christmas season, especially at night, when millions of little sparkling lights illuminate the capital city. Streets (sometimes covered in snow) are full of people. On the footpaths, there are street musicians who play and sing Christmas carols. The big department stores, such as Les Galeries Lafayette and le Printemps put on very special shows.

Galeries Lafayette in Paris at Christmastime Not only are the shops decorated outside but their windows are full of magical themes. There are always automated figures in these displays that are great fun to watch. Adults as well as children enjoy these. 

But on Christmas Eve, when people have finished buying their last minute purchases, the streets become deserted. It's the time for "le réveillon" of the special Christmas meal. all the family eat together at this big dinner. People traditionally have seafood, such as oysters, a roast turkey and "une buche de Noël" or special Christmas log cake.

In the evening, the children put their shoes in front of the chimney, on the hearth or near the Christmas tree, all ready for Santa. Later, the bells of the churches and cathedrals will ring to call people to the High Mass at midnight. Midnight Mass is a tradition in Europe.




A "grand repas" at Christmas

Back to top